Nepal PM KP Oli to visit India on April 6: How the man turned from New Delhi’s friend to foe
Khadga Prasad Oli, who became the Prime Minister of Nepal for the second time in February this year after the Left Alliance swept the elections in November-December 2017, will make his first visit to India on Friday, April 6.
The 66-year-old leader is not known to be India-friendly now and experts on South Asian politics believe that New Delhi has a test on its hand now to tackle Nepal, an age-old friend which has shown a strong tendency to lean in favour of China of late.
Oli blamed India for putting his govt in trouble in 2016
In 2016, when Oli was serving his first stint as the prime minister, he accused India of creating a crisis of survival for his government through remote control. India and Nepal were still fighting the ghosts of the 2015 earthquake aid show-off and border blockade incidents and the trust factor took a severe beating.
The decision by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) to withdraw support from the Oli government in 2016 had left him in a serious trouble from which he could not recover and blamed India for the political mishap.
But Oli was not always a man perceived as anti-Indian. In fact, he was seen as such pro-Indian once that he was even called as a "Man of India", as this Scroll article. analyses. He played an important role in establishing the historical Mahakali Treaty of 1996 with India for sharing the water of the Mahakali River and its joint development.
Also, during his role as important ministers in the Nepali Cabinet in the early 1990s and mid-2000s, Oli had a good relationship with India.
Things changed after Prachanda entered mainstream politics
Things started to change once Nepal's Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda entered politics. In 2008, Prachanda became Nepal's prime minister after the politics of Nepal underwent a churning in its post-monarchy days. Oli was not happy with the turn of events.
It is said that when Prachanda tried to remove Nepal's army chief General Rukmangad Katwal, Oli tried to mobilise several parties to put pressure on the then Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav to scuttle Prachanda's plan and the army chief was reinstated by the president, seeing Prachanda resign from the post in mid-2009. Prachanda in those days was known to be anti-India and Oli reportedly took New Delhi's help to see the Maoist leader getting replaced by Madhav Kumar Nepal.
But as in ever-changing politics and its shifting alliances, all the more in Nepal, Oli and Prachanda made an alliance in 2015 and Oli became the prime minister. In May 2016, Prachanda had taken a U-turn after deciding to withdraw support from Oli's government before doing the same the very next month, leaving the Oli government in a minority. Prachanda became the prime minister for the second time after Oli fell, proving yet again that in politics, there are no permanent friends but only interests.
For Oli, anti-Indianism is key to keep himself strong in domestic politics
Oli since then has understood that to keep his significance alive in an otherwise unstable Nepalese politics, it is important to opt for the season's flavour and now it is anti-Indianism.
With Nepal has turned into a democracy with its own aspirations, Oli has an opportunity to eclipse his rivals (Prachanda, Nepalese Congress, Madhesis) by showing them as India's puppets while he himself is a leader with a difference. Anti-Indianism is thus a strategic necessity for Oli who now has a major mandate behind him to try to make equal dealings with India.